‘Negative’ outlook for Gulf sovereign ratings in 2018, says Moody’s

Bahrain’s debt is expected to approach 100 percent of GDP by 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 15 January 2018
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‘Negative’ outlook for Gulf sovereign ratings in 2018, says Moody’s

DUBAI: The outlook this year for sovereign ratings in the GCC is “negative,” according to ratings agency Moody’s in a new report highlighting geopolitical risks and muted economic growth as factors undermining the creditworthiness of the region.
“Although oil prices have risen significantly from their lows in early 2016, most sovereigns in the region will continue to run sizable fiscal deficits and record an increase in their debt burdens over the next 12 to 18 months,” said Steffen Dyck, vice president as senior credit officer at Moody’s.
“In addition, long-standing geopolitical event risks have come to the fore again and will play an important role in defining sovereign credit quality in 2018.”
The report forecast a slight increase in GDP growth of close to 2 percent this year across the GCC.
While regional government debt burdens are set to rise, the report said, the speed of growth will vary from country to country. Bahrain’s debt is expected to approach 100 percent of GDP by 2019.
Kuwait and Saudi Arabia’s debt burdens are forecast to increase, but at lower levels in comparison to Bahrain, according to the report. Qatar and the UAE’s debt is expected to stabilize in 2018 and 2019.
Regional geopolitical tensions are likely to persist in 2018, with Moody’s anticipating that the diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar by the Saudi Arabia-led group of Arab countries will continue throughout 2018 and possibly longer.
Three out of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries currently have negative rating outlooks, according to Moody’s, with the remaining countries having stable outlooks.
This is an improvement compared to the start of 2017 when four out of six had negative outlooks. Qatar, Oman and Bahrain all saw their credit rating downgraded last year by Moody’s.


Abu Dhabi aims to lure start-ups with investment in new technology hub

Updated 56 min 32 sec ago
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Abu Dhabi aims to lure start-ups with investment in new technology hub

  • The initiative will help Abu Dhabi reduce reliance on oil
  • Mubadala hopes to attract Chinese and Indian companies

ABU DHABI: Abu Dhabi will commit up to $272 million to support technology start-ups, it said on Sunday, in a dedicated hub as part of efforts to diversify its economy.

US tech giant Microsoft will be a strategic partner, providing technology and cloud services to the businesses that join the hub as the capital of the United Arab Emirates continues its push to reduce reliance on oil revenue.
Abu Dhabi derives about 50 percent of its real gross domestic product and about 90 percent of central government revenue from the hydrocarbon sector, according to ratings agency S&P.
The emirate launched a $13.6 billion stimulus fund, Ghadan 21, in September last year to accelerate economic growth. Ghadan means tomorrow in Arabic. The new initiative, named Hub 71, is linked to Ghadan will also involve the launch of a $136 million fund to invest in start-ups, said Ibrahim Ajami, head of Mubadala Ventures, the technology arm of Mubadala Investment Co.
The goal is to have 100 companies over the next three to five years, Ajami said. “The market opportunities in this region are immense,” he added.
Mubadala, with assets of $225 billion and a big investor in tech companies, will act as the driver of the hub, located in the emirate’s financial district.
Softbank will be active in the hub and support the expansion of companies in which it has invested, Ajami said, adding that Mubadala is also aiming to attract Chinese and Indian companies, among others.
Mubadala which has committed $15 billion to the Softbank Vision Fund, plans to launch a $400 million fund to invest in leading European technology companies.
Incentives mapped out by the government include housing, office space and health insurance as part of the $272 million commitment, Ajami said.
Abu Dhabi will also announce a new research and development initiative on Monday linked to the Ghadan 21 plan, according to an invitation sent to journalists.